Best Cheap Irons
Most any clothes iron, whether cheap or pricey, will meet the needs of anyone who irons once in a while. And with the rise of casual work-wear and synthetic fibers, who really needs an iron anymore? But if iron you must -- for sewers and quilters, an iron is mandatory, as it is for folks who wear mostly cotton -- experts say there's no longer any reason to pay a premium for a gratifying ironing experience. In other words, the best cheap clothes irons often perform at least as well as models costing $100 and more.
Cheap Irons Buying Guide
Our research into the best cheap clothes irons set the price ceiling at $40 and turned up several models that are feature-rich, easy to use, and leave your clothing wrinkle-free. Our picks for best cheap clothes iron are the T-Fal Ultraglide Easycord FV4379 (starting at $40) and the Black & Decker F67E Classic (starting at $25) -- the former because it heats up quickly, has lots of holes for lots of steam, and boasts a large water tank; the latter because it's a no-frills model just like mom's that gets really hot and gets the job done.
|Cheap Steam Irons, Cordless Irons|
|Steam Iron Reviews, Iron Reviews|
|Best Irons, Best Steam Irons|
As ironers surely know, the most critical features in an iron are the production of heat and steam and the size of the water tank. To make a lot of steam, you need a lot of heat. On the whole, higher-priced irons heat up faster, reach the very high temperatures (about 400 degrees) needed to iron wrinkles out of cotton, and have more holes through which steam emerges. Upscale models usually have 1500-1700 watts of power, compared to the 1200 or so common among cheap irons. Heat matters because if it's too low, there's a higher possibility of leakage, the bane of every ironer because leaking water can stain fabric. Large quantities of steam come from large quantities of water, so if you want lots of steam, it helps if the water tank is big, easy to refill, and easy to gauge the water level. More important than anything else, though, is the ease with which an iron does its job - the better it works, the less muscle power you'll exert. This is partly dependent on the weight of the iron. If it's heavy enough, it will press out wrinkles, but an iron that's too heavy is uncomfortable to use for any length of time.
The basic features found on cheap irons are more or less standard across models. In fact, the better budget irons now incorporate many features once reserved for upscale irons. For example, most cheap irons have a "burst of steam" that quickly sets creases and can be used a vertical steamer. They typically provide some sort of guide indicating the heat and steam required for various fabrics. The soleplate (the bottom of the iron) is almost always described as "non-stick" regardless of its composition -- often stainless steel, although aluminum, ceramic, titanium, and Teflon also make their appearance on inexpensive irons. Automatic shut-off is found all through the price spectrum. Some cheap irons feature a retractable cord and the occasional cordless iron shows up at the low-price end of the market. Most steam irons take ordinary tap water (except if you live in an area with extremely hard water, in which case you should use distilled water), and some feature a self-cleaning setting that flushes out any build-up.
The cheap irons universe is dominated by T-Fal, Black & Decker, Panasonic, Sunbeam, and Hamilton Beach. Each of these brands offers a range of products with varied features, although sometimes it's hard to discern the difference between models from the same manufacturer. When you start shopping for a cheap iron, bear in mind your ironing profile; that is, the type of fabrics you iron most frequently. For example, you'll need a heavier iron with more heat and more steam if you work with a lot of denim rather than synthetic fabrics. If you iron a lot of clothing at once, you'll want a water tank that holds more than a cup; tank size won't matter so much if you only iron one or two items at a time.
Cheap Steam Irons, Cordless Irons
Steam Iron Water Tank.How much water can cheap steam irons hold? That depends on the model. If you're a big-time ironer, look for a cheap steam iron with a large water tank so you don't have to refill midstream. Among the models we researched, the low end of the range is filled by the Black & Decker F67E Classic (starting at $25) and the Black & Decker F1060 Steam Advantage (starting at $15) with four-ounce water tanks, followed by the Panasonic NI-S300TR (starting at $23) and Smartek ST2000 Cord/Cordless (starting at $29) with six-ounce tanks. The T-Fal Ultraglide Easycord FV4379 (starting at $40) features a nine-ounce tank, the Kalorik DA-31750 (starting at $27) has a 9.5 ounce tank, and the T-Fal Prima FV3056 (starting at $25) holds 10 ounces. By contrast, the upscale Rowenta DW8080 Pro Master (starting at $99) boasts a tank that holds close to 13 ounces of water.
The water tank is usually transparent, which lets you see when it needs refilling. The all-metal Black & Decker F67E Classic features an internal tank with a small window that a review on Amazon says makes it tough to know how much water is left.
A few cheap steam irons, like the Smartek Cord/Cordless ST2000, have a detachable tank that makes refilling much easier. The Panasonic NI-S300TR sports a small hole in the front for water intake that's covered with a hinged lid. But the hinge often gets in the way while refilling, and, say user reviews, doesn't always snap tightly closed. One of our picks for best cheap irons, the T-Fal Ultraglide Easycord FV4379, features a spring-assisted cover with a large sealed opening. The Black & Decker F67E Classic just has an uncapped hole with a little gauge to signal when it's full; according to the reviews we read, the lack of a cap doesn't seem to bother users because the water doesn't leak unless you turn the iron upside down.
Steam Options.There may be times in your ironing life when you don't need steam at all -- when ironing damp clothes, for example, or a fabric that requires a low temperature. So it's practical to have an option for steam or dry ironing; some budget steam irons, including the Black & Decker F67E Classic, Kalorik DA-31750, and Panasonic NI-S300TR, afford you that choice with a dial or button.
When using your iron's steam, there should be plenty of it. The more steam holes, the steamier and the more evenly the steam is dispersed. Some high-end irons have scores of holes; the Rowenta DW8080 boasts 400. The T-Fal Ultraglide FV4379 features 64 holes, including 27 large holes intended for bursts of steam and 37 microholes, mostly concentrated at the tip, to disperse steam.
Two related features are the steam burst, or surge, and spray mist. All the models we researched, except the Black & Decker F67E Classic, feature a steam burst that's supposed to vanquish stubborn wrinkles and flatten seams; it also serves as a vertical steamer for items like curtains. The spray mist, helpful for tasks like setting or taking out creases, is found on the Black & Decker F1060 Steam Advantage, Panasonic NI-S300TR, Kalorik DA-31750, Smartek ST2000, and Shark Professional Rapido G1468 (starting at $30).
Cordless Irons.It's a fact of the ironing life that the cord gets in the way. So a cord that swivels or retracts is a big deal, and a cordless iron can seem like the Holy Grail. The T-Fal Ultraglide Easycord FV4379 gets half its name from a system that keeps the nine-foot cord lifted up and out of the way, and then retracts when your work is done; the Panasonic NI-S300TR also boasts a retractable cord. The Black & Decker F67E Classic and F1060 Steam Advantage, Kalorik DA-31750, and Shark Rapido G1468 feature cords that swivel for greater maneuverability. Cords on most cheap steam irons measure between eight and ten feet. The cordless irons option, available with the Smartek ST2000, is a big draw for some users.
Steam Iron Power.The wattage of the cheap steam irons we researched varies. At the high end is the T-Fal Ultraglide FV4379 with 1700 watts of power followed by the Shark Rapido F1468 with 1500 watts. The Panasonic NI-S300TR and Smartek ST2000 each have 1200 watts and the Black & Decker F67E Classic has 1100 watts. Based on the reviews that we read, these different power levels generally produce sufficient steam and heat.
Temperature Controls.The many different types of fabric that need ironing require different degrees of heat. All the irons we researched let you choose the temperature that suits whatever type of fabric is on the board.
Iron Safety.Automatic shut-off is an important safety feature. Most every iron these days turns off automatically after a maximum one minute of inactivity if resting face down or tipped over on its side (timing varies by model; some shut off after 30 seconds). If the iron is sitting upright on its heel, it shuts off after several minutes; between seven and 10 minutes is the norm for cheap steam irons.
Steam Iron Reviews, Iron Reviews
Some people iron occasionally, some iron several items on a daily basis, and some iron a lot of stuff frequently. Regardless, steam iron reviews assert that a good iron helps make the task so much easier. Heat is the number one quality that users want, according to iron reviews, because heat (together with steam) removes wrinkles quickly -- and the faster the iron heats up, the better. Other attributes users favor include ease-of-use and durability. An iron that drips, say steam iron reviews, causes users themselves to steam.
Heat and Pressing.According to experts, cheap irons often perform as well as their expensive counterparts. Indeed, we read steam irons reviews by users that tell of ditching pricey irons for the budget variety because cheaper was better.
For a brand often associated with non-stick cookware, it's perhaps no surprise that consumers and experts wax lyrical about the T-Fal Ultraglide Easycord FV4379. It almost literally glides across the fabric, says About.com; dozens of users report likewise, noting it flattens seams and smoothes out jeans in a flash. Steam iron reviews on J&R say the T-Fal Ultraglide heats up quickly and produces lots of consistent steam, which makes ironing almost effortless. The Black & Decker F67E Classic also earns mostly rave reviews, often from consumers such as this one commenting on Amazon who remember it fondly as the iron of their youth. Other iron reviews on Walmart admire its heavy-duty, no-extras simplicity, and most importantly, its heat. Consumers also attribute the excellent pressing performance to its all-metal construction and three-plus-pound weight, features that set it apart from what one user calls "flimsy" plastic models.
Plenty of consumers also comment favorably on the 3.4-pound Panasonic NI-S200TR. In steam iron reviews on Amazon, many users say this inexpensive model heats up quickly and sends out plenty of steam, although we read some griping about inadequate heat and needing to refill the tank often, as well as some sputtering and dripping. (Note that such reports surface to some extent in reviews about most cheap irons.) The T-Fal Prima FV3056 is a good basic iron for the money, conclude steam iron reviews. One post on the Macy's website says the iron produces plenty of steam and heat and slides easily over jeans. Comparing the Prima FV3056 to the T-Fal Ultraglide FV4379 in a review on Amazon, one consumer says the former gets hotter but she prefers the ceramic soleplate of the Ultraglide to the non-stick soleplate on the Prima.
The one cordless iron we researched, the Smartek ST2000, is done in by the speed with which it loses heat, say steam irons reviews on Overstock, while other users gripe on Walmart about inadequate heat. Opinion is divided in steam iron reviews on Target about how hot the Shark Professional Rapido G1468 gets, but the big irritants seem to be water leakage, white crystals that spray out of the tank, and staining of clothing.
Best Irons, Best Steam Irons
Ease of Use.Generally speaking, irons are uncomplicated appliances. Indeed, the basic, no-frills, "old-school" styling and features of the Black & Decker F67E Classic account for much of its appeal. But some of the 21st century bells and whistles found on other models win over plenty of consumers. The catch is, sometimes these features turn out not to be so user-friendly. The cordless option on the Smartek ST2000, for example, is a welcome convenience, according to reviews of the best irons at Walmart, and Amazon, but the allure wanes due to problems with the docking mechanism on the power base and the frequent need to reheat the iron; consumers also grouse about its weight and bulkiness when using the power cord. And the "intelligent" temperature control on the Shark Professional Rapido G1468 might just as well be dumb, say steam irons reviews on Target, because the location of the settings function makes it all too easy to accidentally hit and change it; a similar complaint is lodged against the Panasonic NI-S300TR. One user notes that she bought the T-Fal Ultraglide Easycord partly because of the retractable cord but then struggled to figure out how to use it. And the fabric guide on the T-Fal Prima FVB3056 uses a dot code that requires the owner's manual to decipher. And we read a number of steam iron reviews for the Panasonic NI-S300TR that respond to users' grousing about leaking water by stressing the importance of first reading the manual: the iron apparently won't leak if you switch on the steam after the water reaches maximum heat.
For our top picks, these are minor issues that don't deter most users. In fact, consumers say the models on our list of favorites make ironing less of a chore and one that's completed in record time. They tell of ironing a man's shirt 20% faster with the Panasonic NI-S300TR and a chiffon blouse in less than 60 seconds with the Black & Decker F67E Classic. Best iron reviews extol the virtues of the T-Fal Ultraglide, noting that the cord doesn't get in your way, the water tank is easy to fill, the iron feels solid and is stable when resting on its heel. Consumers like the heft of the aluminum housing on the Black & Decker F67E Classic, according to steam iron reviews on the Macy's website, and the general ease of handling. Reviews of the best irons say the Panasonic NI-S300TR doesn't require frequent refilling and the curved titanium soleplate with its sharp point makes quick work of creases and pleats. And the T-Fal Prima FV3056 wins points for its evenly distributed weight, wide heel that keeps it from wobbling while resting on the board, and a cord that's lefty-friendly.
Iron Durability.Irons take an amazing amount of abuse. Steam iron reviews refer to their being knocked over by 20-pound cats, flying out of RV cabinets, tugged at by children, toppling off the ironing board, and so on. Users seem perfectly willing to take the fall for their iron's demise due to such mishaps, but they get cranky when an iron -- even a cheap iron -- gives out in a matter of months, let alone days.
Our top picks seem to suffer few problems with durability. The Black & Decker F67E Classic benefits from its all-metal construction, say consumers, many of whom tell of having used one for years and buying a new model when the old finally gave out. The reasonably-priced T-Fal Ultraglide FV4379 holds up better than bottom-of-the-line models, assert steam irons reviews, although a few note some leaking and say the steam can be erratic at times. We found a few scattered comments about leaking with the T-Fal Prima FV3056 and Panasonic NI-S300TR, with a couple reporting early flame-out of the latter but also accounts of having used this model for several years. Compared to the other irons we researched, build quality issues afflict the Shark Rapido G1468; users report issues like a short in the cord, flaking chrome, inaccurate timing on the auto-shutoff, stuck steam buttons, and units that quit in a matter of weeks. The Smartek ST2000 also takes a few hits for its flimsy construction and design.
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